As the calendar year turns over, we’ve grown accustomed to the barrage of lists telling us where to travel during the next 12 months. Oftentimes these places are a country or even a whole region – you could spend an entire year exploring just one of the locations listed and still barely make a dent.
We like to travel on a smaller scale. Forget countries and cities, for us the neighborhood is the ideal unit of exploration. Celebrating neighborhood life and businesses is, of course, essential to what we do as Culinary Backstreets. Since our founding in 2012, we’ve been dedicated to publishing the stories of unsung local culinary heroes and visiting them on our food walks, particularly in neighborhoods that are off the beaten path.
But this year we are planning to dive even deeper into the cities we work in. Getting off the beaten path leads to fresh experiences, but more importantly, it’s a way for us to contribute to the economies of neighborhoods otherwise neglected by the tourism industry. Tourism is an important economic force in many cities, as it should be, but if it is not dispersed responsibly, it can devastate the urban ecosystem, one that’s based on the sound health of all of a city’s neighborhoods.
With that in mind, we are happy to declare 2018 as “The Year of the Neighborhood,” one in which our focus will be on lesser-visited neighborhoods and the people and places that keep them going. To get things started, below is a compilation of the less-visited areas that our correspondents are planning to explore this year:
Naples: La Sanità
La Sanità tends to be secluded from the rest of Naples, tucked away as it is behind the historic center in the shadow of a vast bridge built by Napoleon that skims over its rooftops. This isolation over the years provided an ideal location for the Camorra (the Neapolitan mafia) to expand their illicit activities and profit from soaring unemployment rates and economic instability.
However, the neighborhood has recently experienced a surge in attention. A multitude of associations and grass-roots community activists have become involved in social initiatives to raise the profile of the underappreciated historic area, which dates back to the Hellenistic period. The neighborhood, which is situated halfway up a hill, was named after its “healthy” reputation – wealthy Spanish Viceroys chose to build their decadent palaces here because rainfall washed the streets clean. Today, the crumbling facades of these palaces serve as a backdrop for a fine selection of family-run gastronomic gems: a bakery, fishmonger, any number of salumerias (delicatessens) and enotecas (wine bars). Moreover, key tradesmen such as Ciro Poppella and Francesco Sepe are on the front foot, reinvigorating their family businesses and attracting new customers for the benefit of the whole neighborhood. – Adapted from Sophia Seymour’s article “Clean Bill of Health: La Sanità’s Resurgence”
Click here to read the full neighborhood guide.